EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW – Fruit Heroes

Fruit Heroes is the number one lunchbox snack in its native Denmark and one of the country’s biggest-selling and best-loved home-grown brands, with 30 million Fruit Heroes bars consumed last year. Danish children happily munch their way through an average of 40 Fruit Heroes bars every year! Now Fruit Heroes are launching in the UK through sole distributors Petty, Wood & Co and are looking to emulate their Scandinavian success.

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With parents of school-age children increasingly anxious about putting healthy treats in their kids’ lunchboxes, Fruit Heroes have a strong appeal to British mums and their children. Fruit Heroes are truly pure and healthy, made from only natural ingredients with no added sugar, preservatives, colourings or artificial additives. They taste great and do you good, with a single bar providing one of the recommended five servings a day of fruit and vegetables. They are also suitable for vegans, vegetarians and coeliacs.

Backed by a major marketing support programme, the Fruit Heroes range features four pure fruit varieties presented in convenient 20g single bars and five-bar multi-packs. Each variety features a fun cartoon character and this has proven to be very popular with children in Scandinavia.

Michael Heron, Export Director of Castus, the company behind Fruit Heroes, talks to The Grocery Trader about the UK launch of Fruit Heroes and why this exciting new range of truly healthy snacks is expecting to achieve great success.

The Grocery Trader – First of all, Michael, what does your role involve day to day? Are you overseeing the UK launch of Fruit Heroes?

I am the Export Director at Castus, and my main role is to drive the product’s introduction and development into new markets worldwide, with one of the most important being the UK. Trends in the UK show consumers have an increasing concern about obesity and are looking to follow a healthier diet and lifestyle for themselves and their kids. I believe this has created a gap in the children’s snacking market for a truly healthy, nutritious and enjoyable product that we are able to fill.

GT – You’ve linked up with Petty, Wood & Co to launch Fruit Heroes into the UK market. Can you tell us how the two companies work together?

Petty Wood and Castus have had a close working relationship for the past year, during which time we have been able to benefit from Petty Wood’s extensive knowledge of the UK grocery market and their understanding of UK consumer behaviour. In addition, we’ve worked together to commission consumer research to guide development of the Fruit Heroes branding, flavours, recipes and pack design. We have worked alongside Petty Wood to ensure the core values and principles that Castus are renowned for are still central to Fruit Heroes. Looking ahead, Petty Wood will act as our distributor in the UK and our country manager. We have a very close partnership that ensures that we are all on track on the development of the brand. I will participate in all the relevant trade meetings in the UK and my team will be in the UK on a regular basis.

GT – Can you tell us a little about the history of Castus and its experience and expertise in the fruit bars market?

The Castus brand was born in 1952, when Henri Schmidt set up a small factory in the north of Denmark, creating products that had healthy and natural ingredients at their heart. In fact, the name Castus is the Latin word for “pure”. Henri’s philosophy, which was also followed by his son Hans, is still central to the business today, meaning you can always rely on us to only use natural ingredients. More recently, in 2003, Henrik Winther-Olsen bought the business and, under his guidance, the company’s sales have soared. Today, Castus sells a massive 30 million bars in a country of only 5 million people.

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GT – Did you initially only sell fruit bars to health stores or did you always sell to grocers?

In Denmark, we launched straight into the grocery market. Consumers are instantly able to see the reliability of the brand claims, so we quickly established a loyal customer base within the grocery sector.

Banana_HQGT – Who owns Castus now?

Castus is a privately owned company and part of The Whole Company Group, which is owned by Henrik Winther-Olsen.

GT – In how many countries are Fruit Heroes sold?

Until recently, Castus has been a well-kept Danish secret. However, my role is to expand the business overseas. Initially, this was into other Scandinavian countries but we are now developing our business in America, the Middle East and, of course, the UK.

GT – Where do you develop and manufacture Fruit Heroes?

All products are produced in Denmark in our own factory in Aalborg in the north of Denmark. Our factory is HAACP approved and BRC level A.

GT – Your philosophy is all about purity; how is this visible in your fruit bars? For example, is there any sugar in Fruit Heroes?

Our products contain only natural ingredients that have been grown naturally. There is no GMO in our products, and we are stringent in ensuring all our suppliers have full documentation to ensure this. There is no added sugar in Fruit Heroes; only fructose, a naturally occurring fruit sugar from the fruit in the bars. We are careful how we create each product, and we do not cook or even bake the ingredients. This ensures that the vitamins and minerals found in the fruit are not lost. This is different to many of our competitors, so the answer is “very visible.”

Fruitheroes_Green_CMYK-trykfil-(2)GT – What about colourings?

We want all our bars to be as natural as possible so we don’t use any colourings at all, not even natural colourings. We use no preservatives and have no artificial ingredients at all.

GT – How much fibre is there in Fruit Heroes?

Well, with the bar being almost entirely fruit, it naturally contains a high level of fibre. In a 100g bar there is 9-14g of fibre.

GT – Is Fruit Heroes a product that anybody can eat, including those with special dietary requirements?

The good news is that most people can eat Fruit Heroes. The bars are dairy free and suitable for vegetarians, vegans, diabetics and coeliacs.

IMG_9504GT – What size is the UK market for fruit bars and could they be the “next big thing”?

The market is worth around £55 million, has developed a lot in recent years and is growing fast. The growth has been driven by many schools banning sweets and chocolate in lunchboxes and by mums needing to find alternatives. However, not all of the products in this category are truly healthy, with some having high levels of sugar or having colourings or artificial ingredients. From a Danish point of view, this was a big eye-opener. What we plan to do is to educate mums so they give their kids Fruit Heroes because our bars are honestly healthy, rather than some products that are little more than sweets. Fruit Heroes are perfect for children who won’t eat fruit, and consumer research shows that mums will love having such a healthy, portable snack that they can keep in their handbag or glove compartment for all those occasions when a healthy snack is needed. Kids will love Fruit Heroes, but we know that the products will also appeal enormously to adults as a very healthy, tasty and convenient “on-the-go” snack.

GT – Isn’t it just better for mums to give their kids fruit?

It’s a fact that many children just won’t eat fruit, so Fruit Heroes are mum’s best friend as kids will eat them and enjoy them whilst benefitting from the goodness of real fruit. Consider also the convenience of having a handy, healthy fruit snack in the car or handbag when driving the kids home or their swimming or ballet lessons. It’s not always easy to have a piece of fresh fruit to hand so it can be a question of Fruit Heroes to the rescue!

GT – Consumers are still being careful with their money in the current economic climate. What’s the retail price for Fruit Heroes?

Fruit Heroes offer great value for money. The RRP is £1.99 for a multi-pack of five bars and 45p for a single bar. This is typical for this category but once you have taken into account the quality and healthiness of our ingredients, Fruit Heroes really represent excellent value.

GT – What range of Castus fruit bars are now available in the UK?

We have initially launched four flavours – Strawberry, Apple Raspberry, Banana and Blackcurrant. We chose these flavours based on extensive consumer research among mothers and children conducted in preparation for the UK launch. However there are more flavours in the pipeline, so it’s a question of watch this space…

GT – Have you changed your packaging much for the UK?

Yes, the range has been developed based on the consumer input I have mentioned. In Denmark the multi-packs are traditionally in flow wraps but UK mums prefer to buy in boxes, so that’s what we have given them. We asked mums what matters to them, and so we have clearly communicated “1 of your 5 a day” and “made from only natural ingredients” messages on the front of each pack. We’ve also clearly shown the fruit and other ingredients on the front of the pack so mums really understand what they are buying.

GT – Are stocks of Fruit Heroes available now? How can retailers order product?

Yes, stock is now in the country and can be ordered by contacting Petty, Wood & Co Ltd.

GT – Where should Fruit Heroes be merchandised in store for best results?

Most supermarkets position fruit snacks in the home baking aisle and that’s where mums will look, so Fruit Heroes multi-packs should be displayed there also. However, single bars should be displayed in the impulse section and at the till to encourage healthy snacking.

AppleRaspberry_HQGT – Have you secured any major new listings yet for Fruit Heroes and will you be carrying out promotions and displays?

We have had some really positive feedback from a number of supermarkets and high street retailers, some of which will be selling Fruit Heroes very shortly. Our launch will be backed up by a strong promotional programme featuring PR and major consumer sampling. On top of that, we are working on a media plan. We are also launching a brand new Fruit Heroes website www.fruitheroes.co.uk on September 1st to link in with the UK launch.

GT – How do you support the brand in Denmark?

In Denmark, the brand has such high awareness that we tend to focus on trade marketing. We are also very active in social media, with very good results. We are also active sponsors of different sports events in Denmark. In the UK, we recognise that we are very much the “new kids on the block,” and we will certainly be investing in above-the-line activity to drive awareness and build trial.

GT – Trial is crucial with products like Fruit Heroes. Is consumer sampling an important part of the support programme?

Yes, sampling is a very important part of the plan. We will be sampling more than 250,000 Fruit Heroes bars in the UK over the next nine months. We know the product is well liked by UK consumers, due to a development process in which the recipe has been refined to UK tastes. However, we need consumers to know this and we will therefore be conducting extensive sampling.

GT – How do you see the fruit bar market developing in the UK and what are your plans for Fruit Heroes going forward?

We see growth being driven by schools and mums alike. We want to play a part in educating mums and kids so they can enjoy really healthy snacks. We believe there will be some major changes in the category, with consumers becoming more aware of what is truly healthy and buying accordingly. Many will reject brands that have high levels of sugar and contain artificial ingredients or colourings whilst claiming to be healthy. Obesity levels are a real problem, and eating healthy snacks can be part of the solution. Many consumers are demanding new and innovative products, which, I believe, will lead to fewer brands in this category, all of which will have a truly genuine message.

Petty Wood & Co Ltd

Tel: 01264 345500

email: info@pettywood.co.uk   

www.pettywood.co.uk   

www.fruitheroes.co.uk